Silk Street Market, Beijing

Today after visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, and then Jingshan Park across the street, I visited Silk Street (秀水街) a.k.a Silk Market, famous for its shopping, and particularly its wealth of knockoff brands. Bargaining is Silk Market's oxygen, and I think today I grew more tired shopping for my girlfriend than I did yesterday climbing the Great Wall of China.

You want jacket t-shirt look look look; here it's best quality just look; buy something for your girlfriend; you want dress for your wife; t-shirt t-shirt do you want t-shirt; good suit you want suit today; big jacket I give you summer price; buy some baby clothes; look here look here t-shirt for you; pretty jacket for your wife; suits for you; what do you want; look here look here don't buy it's OK just look; you need t-shirt; t-shirt t-shirt t-shirt t-shirt.

Silk Market is all of the above, simultaneously, repeated ad nauseam in small hallways with thousands of vendors in every direction: six floors above ground, another three below.

Food, clothes, electronics, toys, souvenirs, things that you need plus even more that you don't.

Silk Market is both tacky and useful, and if you're interested in spending money in Beijing, I'm sure you could do a whole lot worse than Silk Market. It's worth a visit even if you don't plan on buying anything, simply to experience what it feels like to walk through the hallways and hear sales pitch after sales pitch after sales pitch after sales pitch after sales pitch after sales pitch.

It feels a bit like riding a wave, or being bounced around like a pinball.

The energy of the place keeps you moving even when you want to stand still, and when you're standing still and bargaining, forget trying to move: If you walk away because the price is too high, expect to feel a tug on your arm, gently pulling you back to offer a better price.

A tip for bargaining in China: Don't bother asking how much it costs, because then you'll be bargaining down from an absurd price. Start low and make them do most of the work. Don't convince them to give you a better deal; make them convince you to part with more money.

I've been told that paying sticker price in China is considered rude, even if it means more money in their pocket. It's an arrogant reminder that your currency is worth far more than theirs. Plus at Silk Market the sticker price is always too high, and often absurd even by Western standards.